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The difference our teachers make

If you were to walk into Ms. Zawawi’s classroom at Blyth Academy Downsview Park, you would see a lively and colourful room with tables of students working cooperatively. You would hear a hum of students' voices engaged in active learning and the occasional joke that would diverge the entire class into laughter. In this classroom, you would feel a sense of belonging. Small class sizes allow teachers like Ms. Z to offer a personalized approach to learning and classrooms that create community. Each student has a place and feels heard and seen. 

“I was inspired to become a teacher by the teacher-librarian at my elementary school,” said Ms. Z. “Being a very shy and introverted student, I can recall spending countless hours in the library before and after school with Mrs. Thomas who was always a warm, kind, and supportive friend. As I got older, I always knew I wanted to be a teacher just like Mrs. Thomas.” 

Ms. Zawawi is a graduate of the University of Toronto Master of Teaching program and is currently in her fifth year of teaching. Like many teachers, she rose to the challenges faced by the many restrictions brought on by the pandemic. 

“One of my most rewarding memories while teaching was overhearing a conversation between students during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. They said, “Ms. Z really cares about us and whether we are learning. Some of her classes are hard, but she always makes it fun somehow.” These comments meant a lot to me,” said Ms. Z. “Teaching through the restricted conditions of the pandemic required me to abandon many of the traditional strategies I would use to build community in my classroom. This gave me the confidence that I was doing something right at an incredibly stressful time for educators and reassured me that I was still able to build those meaningful connections with my students regardless of the many challenges and changes that were taking place.”  

The most rewarding part of teaching for Ms. Z is when her students first understand a new concept or see how a lesson directly applies to their life, and they have an AHA! moment. She gets excited when students see improvements in themselves or when they can struggle through a concept until they master it. 

“The one quality I think every student should develop is resilience,” she said. “I understand that students experience an incredible amount of growth both physically and mentally on a daily basis. I believe developing resilience can help students deal with the difficulties of everyday life while instilling the skills needed to approach new situations and experiences with a growth mindset. 

Our classroom structure allows our teachers to form important relationships with each student and encourage them to succeed. Students have the confidence to go beyond their perceived limits when they can deal with challenges and are supported by teachers like Ms. Z. 

 

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